Huge Increase in Tuberculosis-Infected Monkeys Shipped to U.S. Labs, CDC Says; PETA Urges Import Suspension

For Immediate Release:
December 8, 2023

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Houston – PETA is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today to suspend all monkey imports after the agency revealed in an online seminar this week that from 2021 to 2023, there was a shocking increase in imported shipments of monkeys with tuberculosis (TB), which is transmissible to humans. Between 2010 and 2020, there were no confirmed cases.

In January 2023, a shipment of macaques from Southeast Asia contained the largest percentage of monkeys infected with TB in the history of importation into the U.S. The 26 infected long-tailed macaques in this shipment harbored a highly infectious TB strain that has never been seen in animals in the U.S.

Documents obtained by PETA show that the 26 infected monkeys were likely imported by international monkey dealer and experimenter Charles River Laboratories as part of a shipment of 540 monkeys imported from Vietnam and brought to Houston. In a separate letter, PETA is pressing Charles River CEO James Foster to confirm whether the company is responsible for the shipment.

PETA recently exposed Charles River’s secretive plans to build a monkey-breeding facility and warehouse on ecologically sensitive land in Brazoria County, Texas, that would be populated with monkeys Charles River is importing from Asia and Mauritius. TB, including this new strain that was described in the January 2023 shipment, has been shown to infect cows in Asia, raising the specter of spillover in Texas.

“Importing thousands of monkeys is playing with fire and severely increases the risk of the spread of diseases transmissible to humans,” says PETA primate scientist Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel. “PETA is calling on the CDC to suspend all monkey imports immediately.”

A monkey confined to a shipping crate. Credit: PETA

Earlier this year, PETA revealed that monkeys imported into the U.S. from Mauritius caused a TB outbreak at a Michigan laboratory. Monkeys from Cambodia have also arrived infected with a bacterium so deadly that the U.S. classifies it as a bioterrorism agent.

Charles River is currently under civil and criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for violations of the Endangered Species and Lacey acts. The company also recently acknowledged that it’s under investigation by the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to its sourcing of monkeys from Asia. More than 1,000 long-tailed macaques are still being confined in limbo at Charles River’s facility in Houston after the company allegedly imported them illegally from Cambodia.

For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.

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